The Meaning of Baptism

Various aspects of Baptism are taught in the NT:

a. It is Baptism of Repentance

  • Baptism means washing away sin through repentance and faith

Mark 1:4 teaches that John the Baptist “came, baptizing in the desert region and preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins.” John said: “I baptize you with water for repentance.” (Matthew 3:11)

In Acts 22:16 Ananias said to Saul (later Paul) “And now what are you waiting for? Get up, be baptized and wash your sins away, calling on his name.’” 

b. It is Baptism into Christ

This section shows that immersion (or being ‘buried’ in the water) is the best method of Baptism.

  • Paul teaches that Baptism is being clothed with Christ

This means being protected by Christ from God’s wrath and Satan’s attack. It also means being Christ-like

Galatians 3:27 “all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ.” 

  • Paul teaches that Baptism is being buried with Christ and rising with him

In Baptism our old, sinful self is conquered by Christ through repentance and faith and our new self is created by Christ through repentance and faith

Romans 6:3-10 “Or don’t you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life. If we have been united with him like this in his death, we will certainly also be united with him in his resurrection. For we know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin …”

Titus 3:5 “he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit …”

  • Paul teaches that Baptism is being brought into the Body of Christ

1 Cor 12:13 “For we were all baptized by one Spirit into one body– whether Jews or Greeks, slave or free– and we were all given the one Spirit to drink.”

c. It is Baptism in the Spirit

  • Baptism is being immersed in the Spirit through repentance and faith

Matthew 3:11 “I baptize you with water for repentance. But after me will come one who is more powerful than I, whose sandals I am not fit to carry. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire.” 

John 1:33 “I would not have known him, except that the one who sent me to baptize with water told me, `The man on whom you see the Spirit come down and remain is he who will baptize with the Holy Spirit.’” 

d. Baptism is about what God does

Therefore we don’t baptise ourselves.  It is not primarily a testimony but a reception of the gracious gift of God.

  • Repentance is a gift of God (Acts 5:31; 11:18; 2 Tim. 2:25)
  • Faith is a gift of God (Eph 2:8-9)
  • Forgiveness is a gift of God
  • New life is a gift of God
  • The Holy Spirit is a gift of God

© Tony Higton: see conditions for reproduction